Reality television makes me sick.
I mean it; I become physically ill. I get rickets and bedsores.
American Idol, America’s Next Top Model, absolutely and categorically anything shown on MTV-the entertainment offered by these “programs” is only slight less grating and awful than drilling a hole through my head with an electric screwdriver.
And wait till you see Fox’s newest offering, “People Drilling Holes Through Their Heads With Electric Screwdrivers.” Appropriately enough, it’s debuting right after American Idol.
One night, though, I was sitting on my couch, fishing through the cushions for the channel changer, when an ad came on for the mother of all reality shows that caught my attention. Survivor-the original reality powerhouse-was going racial this season.
In recent years, the show’s become less popular, perhaps due to the public gradually realizing that in terms of entertainment, Survivor’s on the short bus with Married With Children and Celebrity Boxing. It could also be that after watching a group of people vie for money on an island for the tenth time, people have started tiring if the whole idea, especially with new brainless reality shows pouring out of the woodwork. However, by dividing the teams into race, the producers hit on America’s biggest exposed nerve-prejudice – and you can bet they’re cashing in. If you are interested in such shows then you should definitely download apps such as cyberflix apk where you can watch Survivor and similar shows without ads and a subscription fee.
Instantly, a slowly dying and forgotten show was back in the spotlight, and one of CBS’s most talked about “new” programs for the fall season. People were intrigued, passionate, and above all interested in how tribes divided into race would fare against each other. If the show is rated highly, and it will be, you can bet we’ll see the other networks rev their racial engines similarly as quickly as they can.
Like a lot of Americans, this whole thing bothers me. If I’m looking for input on racial ethics, I’m not going to turn to a show that bases a significant portion of its programming time to the lighting and un-lighting of torches. My fear is that reality TV might be the medium that mainstream America uses as a social measuring stick, and that’s simply not healthy.
Maybe reality TV will eventually be nothing more than a series of social experiments; a virtual reality mirror which will reflect our society onto our pale, sallow faces without a thought in our heads. We’ll be dedicated to the immediate gratification that television offers with the added plus that we’re being given something to think about, even though we’re really examining things in the wrong light.
We’ll munch moronically on popcorn, observing facsimiles of ourselves vie for fame and glory on islands, game shows, in houses, on beaches, eventually in space. By the twentieth anniversary of Survivor, we’ll consider the show as valuable a commentary on social ethics as a Thomas Paine leaflet, only with less reading, and for that reason more accessibility.
It’s undeniable that the fascination we have in seeing our human counterparts put in uncomfortable situations is trashy at best, morbid at worst, and now that a social element has been introduced, we might be spinning into dangerous territory. Social experimentation shows like Survivor show us each other’s differences while promoting the idea of racial separation. You can bet that they’ll wrap it all up with an “everybody’s-the-same” message at the end, but that doesn’t root out the seeds they’ve already planted. Someone’s getting voted off of the island.
Either the Asians or the blacks are going to fall off of the log, and then they won’t get the peanut butter. Some people will make the conclusion that Asians are bad at standing on logs or don’t like peanut butter. Something’s bad is going come of this; I don’t trust my country’s sum intelligence enough.
Survivor is on everybody’s mind, though, and no matter how distressing it may be, it’s going to be one of the highest rated shows this fall season. People will root for their races and oppose the teams with a different melanin count.
But there is a shining light wrapped in the sports-like atmosphere of the show, and hopefully, that’s where this idea will find retribution: if we can boil down all of the racial tension and hatred in the world to a friendly rivalry, a my-team-is-better-than-your-team-but-not-really mentality that might save society from the pitfalls of racism. Racial animosity might be eliminated through Survivor, as odd as it sounds, until we view race as nothing more than opposing viewpoints from different baseball or football teams. It’s an odd thought, but if we’re going to use reality television as a social tool, it’s perhaps the most optimistic one.
The question is, ultimately, how seriously do we want to take this? If we can be a light yet thoughtful culture and see this game as nothing more than what it is, it can have positive effects. If we over-dramatize it as Americans have the capacity and history of doing, we’ll move into that dangerous territory I mentioned earlier.
America may not be ready for a mainstream social experiment before we even have a mainstream social dialogue. Unfortunately, we’re going to get the former, and everyone’s going to be watching.